tv Maria Hinojosa One-on- One PBS April 22, 2012 8:30am-9:00am PDT
>> hinojosa: has the first latino president of the united states already been born? some say, "yes." as the youngest mayor of a top 50 u.s. city, my guest today symbolizes the emergence of a new generation of latinos in american political life-- the mayor of san antonio, texas, julian castro. i'm maria hinojosa, this is one on one. mayor julian castro, welcome to our program. >> tnk y vermuch f having me.
>> hinojosa: so your mom was a big time political activist in the 1960s and 1970s-- chicana activist. your brother is in state government in texas. you're the youngest mayor... or one of the youngest mayors in the country, san antonio, and people are saying, "this family has got a political future." so is that kind of the way you had it all planned out? >> oh, it's... well, that's the way that it's working right now, it seems, but not the way that we planned out. >> hinojosa: so you didn't even think, like, when you were a kid you were like, "i'm going to become a politician like my mom." >> no. you know what's interesting was that because my mother was so involved at that time in different mexican american issues and women's issues, she would drag us to political rallies, to meetings, and for somebody that's five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, those things are not the funnest thing to do in the world. and so we actually... joaquín and i wanted to do anything but go into politics. >> hinojosa: really? >> yeah. my brother wanted to be a lawyer and he is a lawyer today and i'm
a lawyer, and i really didn't know what i wanted to do, but i didn't wt to do that because it... you know, i just saw it as boring. it really wasn't until we got to college and he and i both went to stanford, and we could see, you know, what was special about the community that we had come from but also how much more opportunity existed out there at that time in the bay area. and for me, thinking about politics was thinking about, well, how could you take the best of what is out here, the opportunity, the education level, and combine that with what's there in san antonio-- the great cultural richness, the history, the humility of the community, and it's a hardworking community? so i would say that college was really when i first got interested in actually going into politics. >> hinojosa: so your mom kind of was... was doing major politics from the grassroots. and actually, you know, many times along the route, saying,
"hey, listen, we can't even play within the two party system. we've got to create a third party-- la raza unida party in texas. and you're sitting here as a kid saying, "oh, mom, this is so boring." and then you end up essentially becoming part of a major political party-- the democratic party. people look at you. you know it's been said, we might as well just put out there. they're saying, "look, julian castro could end up as the first latino in the white house." so put those things together. you know, your mom's doing radical stuff-- you know, third party politics-- and you're like, right in with the big democratic party with... they have high hopes for you. >> well, i think it's a measure of how far the country has come in those 30 to 40 years, and she was active in the late 1960s and early 1970s. and when you look at... look back at that experience, it's not surprising that there would have been a third party, because neither party truly was serving, i think, the interests of hispanics at that time in the
united states. you had a drop-out rate of 70% or something like that. just astronomical. and the institutions of significance in the country truly did not afford the american dream to certain folks, and it's a measure of how far we've come that you have more significant latino political empowerment, more progress in business ownership just across the board, that you could even have folks talk about in the relatively, you know, foreseeable future, some sort of latino elected as president. now, i will say, i do not believe that that's going to be me, but i do believe that as jorge ramos has said... >> hinojosa: you don't believe it's going to jorge ramos... ( laughing ) no! >> ...that that person has been born. >> hinojosa: yeah. >> so it's in the foreseeable future, and i think that's just... that's the greatness of the country and that's the perseverance of folks like my mother and many, many other folks who have worked hard to help bring the country along to
a point where it is possible for this generation of latinos to be less burdened with having to fight that fight. >> hinojosa: yeah, and you use that word a lot. you say that your generation of latinos are less burdened than, you know, kind of, if you will, the angry chicano rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. and yet, you look at our country in the year 2011 in terms of latinos, and i was thinking, "well, really? are we less burdened? i mean, you have a state that right now is... many latinos feel is outwardly anti-latino-- arizona. you have a sentiment... you know, many analysts are looking at this and saying, "there is an anti-latino sentiment in our country." so in fact, less burden? don't you feel like there is a new generation of young latinos who are saying, "you know what? this is our country and we are... are angry that we're not heard politically"? >> i think that... that particularly t actns in arizona and the mood, generally,
of the last 18 months, two years, you know, has sort of raised the specter of anti-latino sentiment in the united states, but i wouldn't say that it's to the same level as the generations before. you know, for instance, just at a basic level, you know, in the year 2010, it's possible to be a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, and it was in theory possible two generations ago but that really didn't happen much. it's possible now to go and conduct commerce anywhere in the united states as a latino. you're not going to be held back from that. so i do believe that this younger generation has many advantages that they should take advantage of and get as well educated as possible. what worries me sometimes, though, i will say, is that a lot of the younger generation-- not only of latinos but of americans-- i think doesn't have a sufficient understanding of the history of how we got here
or a respect for the contributions that past generations have made so that they can have those opportunities. >> hinojosa: so for example, what is it that you want us to know when you say we don't know our own history? what don't we know that we need to know? >> well, you know, i think that... that for instance, in texas, there's a great example of this in the state board of education. the state board of education has taken a very ideological approach to what appears in text books. you know, not teaching about certain people, teaching about other kinds of folks. taking a very hard line stance on the content of text books as a political agenda. i think that's maybe the most crystallized example of trying to influence how a generation learns about history. but just on a much more mundane level, a lot of times i fear that, you know, a 16, 17, 18-year-old out there, they think, "well, i'm... i'm about to graduate from high school or i can go and get a job wherever," or you know, they're
having fun with their friends or playing video games or on the internet or text messaging and everything's fine. and that's good in the sense that they see a sunny future for themselves. you want them to do that. but at the same time, i don't think that they look back enough and understand the history of the country and understand what kind of sacrifices had to be made for the gains that we have in the united states today. and the danger of that is that then they're more likely to allow us to fall back in the future. >> hinojosa: so what should i... so what... so how do we do that? i mean, if you're saying, look... and frankly, as a litician ihink that it's interesting that you're commenting on the text book issue out of texas, because it is highly political. it seems that you, as a politician, you don't run away from controversy. you are prepared to face it, but you're very... the way you talk
about controversial issues is different. is that because you're very clear about how it is that you want to talk about issues that might be inflammatory for some, and you're saying, "look, as a politician, i have to make an effort to have you hear what i'm saying, so i say it in a very particular way"? >> i believe that... i fundamentally believe that if you make a good argument and if you're sincere about it and if you're not inflammatory or accusatory, that there's still enough of a respect for one another that in the united states-- as sense of community-- that in the united states, people will respond to that. if we lose that as a country, then i think we're going to lose a lot of the greatness that has defined us and the ability to progress in such a beautiful way; the way that the country has over these last several generations. >> hinojosa: but if your mom was
kind of understanding politics at a place where there were a lot of divisions and she was prepared, in essence, to dive into controversy and to kind of push the envelope, what... how do you say... what do you say to this younger generation that is saying, "mr. mayor, we as young latinos or young activists see problems on our horizon. we have a latino drop-out rate that's not 75% but it's 50%, w have, you know, crisis in teenage pregnancy, we have, you know, poverty." what do you say to them when they're saying, "it's important for us to be angry and to be putting... pushing the envelope now in the year 2011"? >> i say a couple of things. first, that the best thing that folks can do to alleviate those challenges or those problems is to invest in themselves and their community and educating themselves and voting. you know, the issue for latinos a lot of times in these years,
is that, you know, we should have a lot more influence in the democratic process than we do, but so many of our folks in the community don't vote and that's a real frustration and we have to acknowledge that that power in the united states is within our hands. >> hinojosa: why do you think they don't vote? >> well, i know that... i would imagine it's folks are discouraged, and i can see rightly how they might be discouraged economically, if people are living from hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, or they're out of a job. but as long as this country is going to be the country that it is, the best way to make progress is to participate. i also would say that i... i don't... i do think that there still is a place for folks to rile people up in a civilized way, in a productive way... >> hinojosa: but that's what democracy looks like... >> yeah, i'm not saying that everybody has to be... >> hinojosa: it's not going to be pretty. >> sure, you know, not everybody has to have a suit and tie on and act like they're in a boardroom. i mean, in fact, the progress that we've made has come because
you've had a spectrum of people like... like my mother, like henry b. gonzález in coness at that time, like folks who have been pioneers in the boardrooms of america. and so you know, there is a place for all of that, but as long as, you know, it's marching in the same direction. >> hinojosa: there is a pretty fascinating statistic that is only, i think, now that the census is going to be, you know, releasing more and more information, every 60 seconds a latino turns 18 in the united states of america. that's... i mean, i always repeat it so that people can try and be like, "what?" so every 60 seconds, a latino turns 18. and so when you're talking about voting power, that's what you're looking at, right? you're also, i mean, again, being a politician, you're thinking, "look, if i can lock in that generation that sees me as a leader," just to vote, it means something for you politically, it means something for our country, but that's... i mean, talk about when you...
when you hear that statistic. >> oh, i mean, that statistic is just indicative of the changing demographic of america, and the question really is are latinos going to be a great asset for the united states or are they essentially going to be an albatross? and i believe that they can be the greatest asset for the united states in this globally competitive economy if those... if that 18-year-old has graduated from high school and is going on to college, you know, is voting, is being a productive member of the community. we have a wonderful opportunity to renew the spirit and the entrepreneurialism of the united states with this great latino growth, and it can help... this growth can propel the united states to dominance against china and india in the 21st century if it's harnessed and if... their success is fostered. >> hinojosa: so where's the problem?
when you stand back and you look at what's happened in our country and you see that, you know, at this point, you know, entering the second decade of the new millennium, you know, that latino youth, because they're going to be so huge in our country, should be... i mean, all youth, but when you're talking about demographics and you're looking at those numbers, that they should be most supported in terms of getting through school. but you know that it's not quite there. the... i'm not sure if it's the will, the political will, the dollars. so there's also... i mean, you're seeing it as a very positive, and i'm so happy that you're an optimist. >> ( laughing ) well... and i do see the growth in the latino community as very positive for the united states, although in some ways, it still is an open question and it seems as though you do have, in some instances, this multi-generational reaching but not getting there. folks who drop out from high school, who may have a child
early, who just do not reach their dreams and then, you know, the cycle repeats itself. we have a lot of that in... in the latino community, but also throughout the united states with young people, and so i would say that it's a function of poverty, of not believing fundamentally that that kind of american dream is going to be there for them, maybe. and it's something that, as policy makers, as mayors, as school board members, as state representatives, as members of congress and so forth, that we have a role to play in making better policy, but it's also an individual issue. you know, at some level, the individual has to try and rise above it as well. >> hinojosa: and one of the things that you're doing in san antonio which i think is really interesting is that you're actually trying to put the political and the, you know, personal together. you have decided that as a mayor, you want to take on the issue of latina teen pregnancy. san antonio has the highest
rate? >> one of the highest rates, yes. >> hinojosa: one of the highest rates of latina teen pregnancy and one of the higher rates... highest rates of multiple pregnancies for latina teenagers, if i'm not mistaken. >> that's true. >> hinojosa: now, a mayor inserting himself into that issue-- why? >> because it's important for the future well being of the city. >> hinojosa: and how do you figure that you can tackle this thing that has been, you know, a problem? how can a mayor... and i'm always wondering, because i'm saying, "is mayor julian castro thinking that if he can create policy that actually affects something that is... can be measured"... but latina teen pregnancy has been... it's a huge problem. so what's your plan? >> sure. well, first, we're still in the middle of coming up with the approach, but essentially, you know, it has to do with a couple of things: making sure that folks have the right type of resources and information about
how to avoid pregnancy, ensuring that they have aess to clinics and the right types of adults or, you know, medical personnel that can help them make the right decision if that's what they choose, if that's what their families choose before they get pregnant. you know, so that instead of become active, sexually active, they can choose a different path. >> hinojosa: which is interesting, because you know, most parents, most families, have a hard time talking about sex, and you're basically saying for latino families, "look, y'all need to talk about this stuff as a family." >> oh, absolutely. >> hinojosa: "let's t run away from it." >> yeah, don't run away from it, or if it's more helpful to have a counselor or someone at a clinic do that, then you know, take that route. but you have to empower both young women and young men with the information they need to, you know, wait until after they've gotten their education. so that's an important issue,
because it's going to make a profound difference if we can continue to lower that number of teen pregnancies; a profound difference socially, b also onomically for the cit you know? if somebody has a child at the age of 22, 23, instead of at 16 or 15, that child is more likely to get educated themselves, to graduate from high school, graduate from college, and what we're trying to create in san antonio, like every other community, is this whole condre of well educated young people that can take on the jobs of the 21st century. we're trying to enhance the opportunity spectrum, and the best way to do that is to make sure that they graduate from high school and graduate from college. >> hinosa:o it's interesting, mayor castro, because you... again, people see you as representing kind of a new face of latino politics in the new millennium. you are catholic but you're pro-choice, you have marched as
the grand marshall of the gay parade... gay pride parade in san antonio, you support nafta, you... so how... i mean, you're... talk a little bit about... especially when you have more latino republicans actually gaining in the past elections, how do you see this as you kind of being the progressive latino, open-minded, still catholic but not a republican, but republicans and latinos are doing well these days? >> they are, you know? in the 2010 election cycle, there were several high-profie latino republicans who were elected, and i don't see it necessarily as a bad thing that you have representation across the political spectrum. i do believe that the democratic party is taking votes, and on policy, is better on issues that affect latinos in the united states.
but when decisions are being made in either caucus in washington, it helps to have folks who have a perspective that relates to the latino community. but for a politician, whether he or she is a republican or democrat, i think part of the new politics of america hopefully is that people are not necessarily always so easily categorized that you can't be for free trade but also, you know, support the idea that there should be some base level kind of protections for employees in places; that you can't be catholic and be pro-choice. you know, we have done a very good job in the united states of trying to use heuristics or to categorize people, and i think what you see in some circles now is people saying, "look," you know, "we live in a world that is more complex than it ever has been, so why would you expect everything to just be black and
white in terms of the people that serve you in public office?" that's an unreasonable expectation. >> hinojosa: there's a lot of talk right now within the latino community around whether or not there is a lack of latino leadership. a very important pew hispanic poll came out saying that, you know, there is no latino leader out there. should there be? can there be? do we need a latino leader now more than ever, or is it better to have many? >> i think it's better to have many folks who are leaders in their own fields; folks who are rising in politics, folks who are rising in business. in a way, the latino community is so diverse in and of itself that i don't know if it's realistic to think that you're going to have one person that's identified as the latino leader, and i don't believe that's a bad thing. there are many communities in the united states that don't necessarily have a single
leader. so i wouldn't... i wouldn't obsess about that. i don't think that whether there's a singular voice or someone who's recognize as the latino leader, i don't believe that's going to determine how much progress is made in politics or business or education. it would sometimes... sometimes, you know, it feels like, "well, where do folks go?" it might be helpful to have one kind of dominant voice, but i don't think it's a hindrance to progress. >> hinojosa: and you'd actually like to see the younger latinos understand that they can be leaders even if they're not big leaders? >> yeah. i thk th what our young people should understand is that they can be leaders in their own right in their own community, you know, in their neighborhood, in their church, in their college, in their job, you know, in their career, whatever it is. that is more empowering, i believe, than looking up to one person as the latino leader.
>> hinojosa: but it could be helpful, couldn't it? i mean, it could be, in fact, very hopeful if you were able to have a latino leader who was, you know, mexican american but was followed and supported by salvadorians, by cubans, by dominicans. in a moment when latinos say that they feel, in a sense, kicked aside, wouldn't have... wouldn't there... there be a need for that person to actually bring together these thoughts and say, "yes, i hear, i represent, i will take your voice"? >> it can be helpful, but i don't think it's necessary. i think, for instance, over the dream act, over the last few months, you saw in different places-- in las angeles, in san antonio, in new york-- folks who were very active trying to push the agenda of getting the dream act passed. and even though there wasn't a single, you know, kind of person identified as the leader, it was
college students and folks who, you know, in there own right were leaders. so you can still have tremendous progress without having a... a kind of identified leader. >> hinojosa: all right, so for young kids who are watching and who are, you know, saying,me? go to the polls? come on; another politician," you know, "no way." you know, "i'm busy; i need a job." so what's your platform of hope for them when they look at the american dream and they say, "i have real questions about whether or not there's going to be that for me"? what do you say to that? >> well, just to look at the experience of their grandparents and their parents. oftentimes, the story is that with their grandparent's generation, maybe they didn't get everything that ey wanted to get in life. maybe they reached the american dream, but a lot of times they didn't reach what we think of as the typical or classical american dream, and then their
parents were more likely to have done that or have gotten closer, and that's the story of the united states. and it's incumbent upon this generation to make an investment in itself to stick it out and graduate from high school and go to college so that they can reach the american dream. a lot of times, young people... you know, i go into the high schools and the middle schools, and being 30 years old to them seems like it's so far away, you know, much less being 40 or 50. and i tell them, first of all, "the time's going to fly by; i can guarantee you that." but secondly, you know, "when everything is said and done 20 years from now, the one thing that nobody can take away from you is your education, and if you just stick it out three, four more years," if they're a freshman in high school, "that is going to make the world of difference to you." d i pe that mo of our
young people get that. the more of them that graduate from high school and then go on to college, the more of them are going to register to vote and actually show up and do it. so in a way, when you address that issue of getting educated and giving them a future, the issue of voting-- not all the time, but to a large extent, i think-- starts to take care of itself. >> hinojosa: well, we'll see how it plays out. mayor julian castro, thanks for joining us. >> thank you very much. hinosa: continue the nvertiont wgbh.org/oneonone.